Preaching and the Art of Curation


books When we listen to a preacher that has put together a sermon we often fail to see all the work that has gone into putting the sermon together.  We tend to view preaching as creation, not as what it would be better seen as - curation.  We fail to see the hours of preparation reading commentaries, exegeting scripture, finding and eliminating potential illustrations, and gathering interesting insights from other writers, artists, or speakers.  While some of the best preachers are often seen as creative, they are better seen as curators.  The primary role of the preacher is not in developing unique life principals that people can apply to their lives.  It is not coming up with a new way to understand and interpret the Bible.  The primary role of the preacher is to take things from all different places - their lives, the scriptures, and other people's works - and take these bits and pieces from all those places and curate them into the sermon.

There's nothing new.

One of our pastors often says, "The best compliment you can give me as a preacher is that I've said nothing new today."  Solomon says it in Ecclesiastes when he proclaims, "There's nothing new under the sun."  There is a heavy burden that comes with being creative and feeling the need to find new things to say every week.  But when we view our role as less about coming up with new ideas and insights and more about curating things that have already been said, we will feel significantly less pressure to be creative.

Preachers should be less concerned with finding new ideas in a text and more concerned with handling the text properly as they find thoughts and ideas from all different spheres to bring light to this same text.

Steal & remix.

Preachers often take these ideas, many of which had no intention of ever being used to preach the Gospel, and find a unique way to remix them and put them back together to communicate something that they were never intended to communicate.  Preachers do what Paul did at Mars Hill in Acts 17 when he uses the quotes of pagan prophets and poets to proclaim the Gospel.  A great preacher finds things from their own lives and things from all throughout culture and puts them together in a way that clearly preaches what the Bible communicates.

Search, gather, and share.

In order to be able to be curating, you need to be constantly searching.  The world is full of things that are potentially curated, but it requires us to be on the look out for things worth remixing.  Read lots of books, watch the news, follow people on twitter, listen to other preachers, watch great films, and listen to good music.  And as you begin searching, write down anything that you might think has a remote possibility of being used at some point.  It doesn't hurt to gather things that you will never use, but it does hurt to not gather something that you could have used but can't remember it when you need it.

What are some places you look to for unique ideas to use as you curate sermons?  

Photo Credit: GeoWombats

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